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Crossing the Line - Week 11
By Todd Gray and Fritz Schlottman
November 13, 2003
 
Cleveland vs. Arizona

Cleveland Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.8

Arizona Defense
Sacks/G=1.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Cleveland Defense
Sacks/G=1.78
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=4.7

Arizona Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Browns have the ball - The Browns third straight loss wasn't much different from the first two in many ways. They moved the ball better, but were forced to abandon the run for much of the game against a K.C. offense that was busy piling up 438 total yards. Perhaps most notable for Cleveland was its inability to convert on third down: 3-for-11 on the day and only 8-of-39 (20.5 percent) during the Browns' three-game slide.

James Jackson ran hard again in his second start for William Green, though he lost a fumble and had limited opportunities due to the Browns constantly playing from behind. Green will return from his one-game suspension this week, but his shoulder could slow him and there is no guarantee he will get all or even most of his carries back.

The offensive line is finally coming together from a health standpoint, and believe it or not it showed against the Chiefs. C Jeff Faine and G Shaun O'Hara returned against K.C., and LT Barry Stokes (ankle) may return this weekend. All the better for QB Kelly Holcomb, whose injured right leg continues to hinder his mobility.

You have to wonder when Cleveland will score another rushing touchdown. With the better part of the offensive line in and out of the emergency ward this season, the Browns just can't make a yard when they've need to. Cleveland has just three rushing touchdowns on the year.

Playing at home isn't a big boost for the Browns. While other teams enjoy a favorable home field advantage, Cleveland still hasn't established an edge in their new stadium. The Browns have won one game at home this season (Oakland) and they were outplayed in that contest.

The Cardinals slipped a bit on defense against the Steelers, or maybe they're just getting bad again. Arizona has yet to allow an opposing QB fewer than two TD passes in its road contests, and the Cards' weak pass rush should serve to give Holcomb and his bum leg a boost.

In fact, Arizona can't stop anyone on the road this year-healthy or crippled. They gave up 42 points to the Lions, 37 to the Rams, 24 to the Cowboys, and 28 points to the Steelers. Arizona has been pretty tough against the run for the most part, and the Browns have yet to put up big rushing totals on the road against even an average rush defense. Cleveland will have to do most of their damage through the air this week.

When the Cardinals have the ball - It was a return to Mistakeville for the Cardinals on Sunday - and it wasn't a happy homecoming following a two-week sojourn into the realm of well-played football. Following two sound games in which the Cardinals managed the clock effectively, ran the ball well and got after opponents on the defensive side of the ball, Arizona stopped doing all of the above.

In a 2:51 span in the third quarter, the Cardinals committed an illegal block, allowed two sacks, had a 24-yard punt, committed pass interference and fumbled. These miscues turned a 7-3 deficit into a 21-3 valley. Arizona also failed to convert on 3 of 16 third downs and settled for a field goal late in the first half after gaining a first down at the Pittsburgh 5 yard line.

Allowing six straight scoring drives doesn't win many ballgames, but those were the Chiefs and this week's opponent is Arizona. Cleveland has been good against the run most of the year, and has allowed less than 100 yards on the ground to seven of nine opponents (there was that record-setting game against Ravens RB Jamal Lewis and that other one against RB LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers, OOPS). This will be a good test for the Cardinals' Marcel Shipp, who slowed down on Sunday following two monster weeks.

Miami vs. Baltimore

Miami Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=.78
Rush Avg.=3.8

Baltimore Defense
Sacks/G=2.78
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Miami Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=3.0

Baltimore Offense
Sacked/G=2.56
Rush TDs/G=1.0
Rush Avg.=5.0

When the Dolphins have the ball - Five turnovers, four sacks, 59 rushing yards and 87 yards of offense in the first half - it all added up to a very long day for the Dolphins in their shellacking by Tennessee.

Each week it's getting harder to believe that the Dolphins had the No. 2 rushing offense in the league last year. RB Ricky Williams had another horrible outing (13 carries, 37 yards), partly due to a leaky OL that has been getting dominated of late.

Rookie LT Wade Smith continued to struggle and was picked on by Titans DEs Jevon Kearse and Carlos Hall. Smith allowed two sacks, including one that resulted in a Griese fumble just after the Dolphins entered Tennessee territory for the first time. With the Dolphins trying to catch up through the air for most of the game, Smith was forced into numerous one-on-one match-ups. After Week 9's disaster against the Colts DE Dwight Freeney, you would have thought that Miami would make an adjustment (either flipping their tackles, moving Smith inside, or chipping more with a tight end or runningback), but that didn't materialize either.

Assuming that Miami continues to ignore Smith's struggles, the Ravens will certainly plan to put their best speed rusher on him. Given that the Ravens defense has 25 sacks so far this season, this figures to be another long week for Smith and Griese.

Miami QB Brian Griese has committed eight turnovers has been sacked eight times in the past two games. Most of the fumbles have come from blind-side hits from his left side-thank you Mr. Smith.

If the Ravens shut down Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk in St. Louis, one can only imagine what's in store this weekend for Brian Griese (or Jay Fiedler), Ricky Williams and the Dolphin receivers (whoever and wherever they may be). Baltimore allowed only seven first downs to the Rams and was all over Marc Bulger (4 sacks). It all adds up to an unpleasant day for Miami.

When the Ravens have the ball - Ultimately, a team-record seven turnovers did in the Ravens. Four of the turnovers led to 20 points.

Baltimore QBs Kyle Boller and Chris Redman combined for three interceptions, two fumbles and seven sacks. Redman, who replaced Boller (knee), had nearly has many sacks as completions.

Jamal Lewis' 111-yard effort was tainted by two lost fumbles. It was Lewis' seventh 100-yard game this season, but far from his best game of the year. Lewis earned 43 yards on his first two carries, then gained only 68 yards on 25 attempts (2.7 yards per carry) the rest of the way. Once Boller was in the hospital, the Rams defense loaded up on Lewis-daring the Raven to throw, something they could not do. Expect more of the same this week against the Dolphins.

Despite a 31-point shredding to Tennessee, Miami's defense remains its greatest hope. Injured Pro-Bowlers CB Patrick Surtain (ankle) and LB Zach Thomas (groin) should both return to action against the Ravens. Without the pair, the Dolphins went without a sack or a turnover for the second time this season last week against the Titans.

Then again, you won't mistake the Titans offense with the Ravens. QB Anthony Wright will get the start this week. Wright played several years for the Cowboys and is more of a running threat than a passer. This does not bode well for Baltimore or RB Jamal Lewis owners as the Dolphins will put eight and nine men near the line of scrimmage on first and second downs, daring Wright to find one of the Ravens less than stellar wide receivers. The Dolphins defense is only giving up three yards per carry when they don't know who's getting the ball. Miami won't give up much more than that against the Ravens' one-dimensional offense this week.

Tennessee vs. Jacksonville

Tennessee Offense
Sacked/G=1.67
Rush TDs/G=.89
Rush Avg.=3.0

Jacksonville Defense
Sacks/G=1.22
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=3.2

Tennessee Defense
Sacks/G=2.78
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Jacksonville Offense
Sacked/G=2.44
Rush TDs/G=.89
Rush Avg.=4.0

When the Titans have the ball - Thanks once again to an efficient passing game and great offensive line play (zero sacks allowed), the Titans relied little on its running game other than to manage the clock after they grabbed a big lead. This may have been a good thing, as Tennessee could muster only 2.7 yards per carry despite rushing for more than 101 yards for the game. Eddie George maintained his paltry 2.9 yards-per-carry average, but rookie RB Chris Brown's was a bright spot for the Titans with 46 yards on 12 carries.

Tennessee has scored more than 30 points six games in a row, tops in franchise history. Who needs a running game when QB Steve McNair is lighting up opposing secondaries anyway? The Titans are one of the few teams that can put 3, 4 or even 5 receivers into a pattern without having their QB lying in a coma. McNair's mobility and Tennessee's rock-solid offensive line give the Titans receivers more than enough time to work their way open.

Jacksonville's fourth-ranked run defense stifled Edgerrin James to continue its streak of shutting down stud running backs. However, no one's been able to make Tennessee pay for a rushing attack that produces a meager 3 yards per carry due to the Titans' pass-first approach.

Jacksonville certainly won't be the first this week. Their strength is stopping the opponent's running game, something the Titans will gladly concede. Unfortunately, the Jaguars secondary should be labeled flammable-allow opposing QBs 61.0 completion rate, 222 yards per game, and 15 touchdown passes in 9 contests while only sacking the opposing QB 11 times in 2003 and intercepting just 10 passes all season.

When the Jaguars have the ball - A tremendous performance by the Jags' oft-beleaguered offensive line paved the way to victory. The OL gave Fred Taylor plenty of room to run and shut down Indy pass rusher Dwight Freeney.

Although QB Byron Leftwich's numbers were rather pedestrian (12-22, 179 yards), he threw for a score and ran for another and had zero turnovers for the first time this season. Leftwich also directed 80- and 93-yard touchdown drives in the second half.

G Vince Manuwai, who sprained his foot against the Colts, is only starter on the injured report.

Despite coming through on his assertion that he would put the hurt to the Colts defense, Taylor probably won't be making much noise leading up to the Jags' tilt versus the Titans. Taylor ran for only 48 yards the first time the teams met, and Tennessee's run defense may have grown even better since then. Against Miami, the Titans fielded all 11 defensive starters for the first time this season.

Tennessee will most likely come after Jacksonville with a game plan similar to the one they used against Miami, which was to stifle RB Ricky Williams before turning their front four loose on QB Brian Griese. Jag's RB Fred Taylor will be a marked man as the Titans defenders take him away from the Jacksonville offense and force Leftwich to beat them through the air.

Philadelphia vs. New York Giants

Philadelphia Offense
Sacked/G=3.11
Rush TDs/G=1.11
Rush Avg.=5.0

New York Defense
Sacks/G=3.11
Rush TDs Against/G=.89
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Philadelphia Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

New York Offense
Sacked/G=1.78
Rush TDs/G=.56
Rush Avg.=4.1

When the Eagles have the ball - Philadelphia's offense was flat for three quarters before coming to life with two touchdown drives in the game's final 10 minutes, thanks largely to Donovan McNabb's late-game heroics. That and a terrible underthrow that was completed because a Green Bay defender slipped on the play, but why tarnish the moment?

The Eagles did little on the ground throughout the game as they repeatedly attempted to run the ball outside the tackles despite the sloppy turf. RB Duce Staley did earn the birds some tough inside yards when they mattered most late in the game. Philadelphia was also reluctant to throw the ball downfield throughout much of the contest - another factor that hindered the running game

The Eagles have trailed in the second half of each of their last four games, yet have won them all.

Philadelphia was lucky to win Monday's night's game, but then when aren't they fortunate? For the season, they've been outscored and they've been outplayed in many of their victories, including this year's game against the Giants were a punt return in the final minute snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. The Eagles offensive line struggled against the Giants pass rush, as they seem to do every season and there's no reason to believe that this week's game won't be another close, low-scoring affair with both defenses dominating the opposing offenses.

The Giants used tight coverage in the secondary and by their linebackers to shut down the Falcons' passing game (58 net yards), but they allowed Atlanta to make up for it with 216 yards on the ground. Not exactly a balanced attack and a problem that seems to plague this unit. Rookie RDT William Joseph was woefully outmatched and surrendered yards on almost every play that went his way.

That said, New York might have been looking past the Falcons to this game. The Giants defense really seems to get up for the Eagles and this week should be no different, as both teams are desperate to stay in contact with the Dallas Cowboys.

When the Giants have the ball - Considering the competition and the location, New York's home loss to the Falcons may have been the worst display of football this season.

RB Tiki Barber gained 120 yards rushing, but lost two fumbles. QB Kerry Collins, facing substantial pressure, threw poorly and finished with two picks against zero TDs. All this against an almost completely re-tooled Atlanta secondary ranked dead last in the league.

The Giants offensive line allowed three sacks against a three-man rush that was without starting RDE Travis Hall. In short, the line was both porous and mistake-prone. All starters with the exception of RT Ian Allen had at least one penalty, and LT Luke Petitgout struggled the most with a holding penalty, a false start and a tripping flag.

To make matters worse, TE Jeremy Shockey (sprained knee ligaments) is out for six to eight weeks.

That's the problem with the Giants offense, you never know what you'll get one week to the next. During the summer, they were expected to be one of the league's highest scoring teams. New York still has the talent to put up big numbers on offense, but poor protection and mistakes have cost them games.

The Eagles can be beaten. The Eagles defense have given up over 100 yards of rushing in each of their last five games and 241 to Packers RB Ahman Green on Monday night. If the Giants offensive line and RB Tiki Barber have a good game, New York wins by at least a touchdown. that is if Barber can hold on to the ball. If he can't, the New York offense will sputter again this week.

It's shaping up to be another one of those days for the Giants against Philadelphia on Sunday. The Eagles' defense shut down Favre and the Packers at Lambeau Field, but the conditions were miserable and Favre is still dealing with a broken thumb. The Giants seem to be creating their own miserable conditions these days, which should help the Eagles' cause.

Carolina vs. Washington

Carolina Offense
Sacked/G=1.78
Rush TDs/G=.56
Rush Avg.=4.5

Washington Defense
Sacks/G=1.56
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Carolina Defense
Sacks/G=2.44
Rush TDs Against/G=.44
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Washington Offense
Sacked/G=3.22
Rush TDs/G=.56
Rush Avg.=4.0

When the Panthers have the ball - It would've been interesting to see how RB Stephen Davis would have fared against the Bucs. The running was certainly tough enough for DeShaun Foster as Tampa Bay stacked the box and dared QB Jake Delhomme to beat them through air. Foster either lost yardage or broke even on eight of his 22 carries. His longest carry was for 13 yards. Carolina's 78 yards rushing was the team's lowest mark of the season.

Delhomme had good protection and made big plays when it counted, but it wasn't the prettiest performance. Still, he was nice when it counted most, directing the Panthers' go-ahead drive in the game's final three minutes. Delhomme completed six of seven passes on the drive for 78 yards, including WR Ricky Proehl's 66-yard score.

Stephen Davis should return this week and most likely wants to remind the Redskins what they're missing without him.

Though the 'Skins pass defense improved against Seattle, Carolina's OL should provide stiffer competition. Washington continues to struggle against the run and has not held an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing since week 2.

When the Redskins have the ball - The bleeding has stopped - for the moment. It was truly a different Redskins team that took the field on Sunday, most notably because head coach Steve Spurrier delegated play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Jackson directed an efficient game plan (33 passes, 32 runs) that featured short tosses early while mixing in some deep pitches as the game progressed. Just as importantly, the line gave great protection to QB Patrick Ramsey, who had been getting abused by opposing defenses of late. Ramsey was hit a handful of times, but he wasn't sacked.

It's no surprise that Ramsey throws the ball better when he isn't running for his life. WRs Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner had their most productive games in weeks, benefiting from the improved pass protection as well.

RB Rock Cartwright, who was a fullback and short-yardage back until injuries forced him into the tailback rotation, may have earned a job as starting tailback following his 13-carry, 81-yard performance. Cartwright converted three third-and-ones and a fourth-and-one. Cartwrights not one of the better known fantasy RB's, but he's worth a start this week if you need an injury replacement on your fantasy team.

C Larry Moore probably won't return this week, but he was ably replaced by backup Lennie Friedman against Seattle. Friedman will get a much stiffer test this week against the Panthers front four. Doubtful he will have much success in moving either of Carolina'' defensive tackles out of the hole without the aid of a double team.

Carolina's defense responded to its recent suspect play by shutting out the Bucs' offense through three quarters. However, once again the Panthers gave up points (17 this week) late in the game before stuffing Tampa Bay on its final drive. DE Mike Rucker returned to play well for the Panthers with four tackles and a sack. He now leads the league with 11 sacks.

Carolina will make it difficult for Washington to duplicate its success in protecting Ramsey, but the 'Skins will have to come close to such a performance to pull this one off. Most likely, it will be a race. If the Redskins receivers can't get separation against Carolina's questionable secondary early, Ramsey will be looking out of his helmet's earhole most of the afternoon. The Panthers' DEs Peppers and Rucker are far to quick off the ball for the Redskins' tackles (Samuel and Jansen) to handle. Both Washington tackles have struggled with procedure penalties, holding infractions, and pass protection this season because Washington runs such long routes and takes such long quarterback drops. If the Redskins' tackles can't protect the edges, Ramsey may meet up with Rucker or Peppers before he finishes his drop.

Denver vs. San Diego

Denver Offense
Sacked/G=1.78
Rush TDs/G=.89
Rush Avg.=4.7

San Diego Defense
Sacks/G=2.22
Rush TDs Against/G=.89
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Denver Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.44
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

San Diego Offense
Sacked/G=1.89
Rush TDs/G=1.11
Rush Avg.=5.4

When the Broncos have the ball - The Broncos should have Jake Plummer back, and not a moment to soon. Denver has lost three of four games without its starting QB, who should return this weekend despite his questionable status. Plummer practiced with the first team on Monday.

RB Clinton Portis may be the greatest beneficiary of Plummer's return. Portis has struggled the past month without Plummer behind center. Denver will also have to rely more on Reuben Droughns and Quentin Griffin this weekend following the suspension of Mike Anderson for testing positive for marijuana earlier this week.

LT Ephraim Salaam (knee) will start against San Diego after missing the past two games. That's the nice part of bye weeks.players get healthy. Prior to Plummer's injury, the Broncos offense was tearing up the league, and fantasy owners are hopeful Denver will again be the offensive juggernaut that rolled up yardage and points in September.

San Diego knows it's best chance may be to target Plummer early and often. The Denver QB will have reduced mobility due to his injury and time off. Problem is, San Diego didn't put much pressure on Minnesota despite three sacks of QB Dante Culpepper, and in general allowed the Vikings to move the ball at will. The Chargers game plan was supposedly 'bend-but-don't-break' against Minnesota's potent offense, and they did plenty of bending as the Vikings piled up more than 460 yards.

When the Chargers have the ball - If San Diego wasn't all but eliminated from contention at this point, Doug Flutie's heroics at age 41 would be a pretty incredible story. Flutie was his usual ageless self on Sunday, completing 21 of 29 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, with no picks. Most importantly, he was a leader on the field, benefited from solid pass-blocking for most of the game and used his feet on the few occasions when his blocking broke down. Flutie's two TD runs were for three and 13 yards.

Flutie's performance opened the door for LaDainian Tomlinson to run all over the Vikings to the tune of 162 yards on 16 carries. LG Kelvin Garmon led a solid run-blocking performance. Teams had been stacking the box against the Chargers due to the team's atrocious QB play, but Flutie has at least temporarily put an end to that.

C Cory Raymer (broken hand) should return this weekend, although RT Solomon Page (ankle) may miss another game. Rookie Courtney Van Buren would replace Page.

These are two teams with their fortunes on the rise, what with Plummer returning to Denver and Flutie re-emerging for San Diego. If Flutie can repeat last week's performance and keep the Bronco defense honest, look for the Chargers to control the ball and the clock. Denver has allowed only 96.1 yards per game on the ground this season (3.9 yards per carry), but has also allowed at least seven runs of 20 yards or more. The loss of LBs John Mobley and Ian Gold has especially hurt.

Tampa Bay vs. Green Bay

Tampa Bay Offense
Sacked/G=1.44
Rush TDs/G=.22
Rush Avg.=3.7

Green Bay Defense
Sacks/G=1.56
Rush TDs Against/G=.78
Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Tampa Bay Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Green Bay Offense
Sacked/G=.78
Rush TDs/G=1.22
Rush Avg.=5.3

When the Buccaneers have the ball - The Bucs' struggles on the offensive line continued and the team was again shut down in the first half despite a valiant fourth-quarter comeback led by QB Brad Johnson. The Bucs ran the ball well, but that didn't do them a whole lot of good once they fell behind 20-7.

Injuries to LT Roman Oben (hand) and G Jason Whittle (shoulder) really caught up with Tampa on Sunday. Kenyatta Walker, switched to LT following Oben's injury, was penalized three times for personal fouls and had a holding penalty declined. NFC sack leader Carolina DE Mike Rucker gave Walker fits.

To top it all off, the Bucks are 31st in the league in average drive start. They are also 32nd in he league in rushing touchdowns-having just two all season.

Grady Jackson was a welcome addition to the Packers' defense, creating a disruptive presence up the middle and sharing a sack on his fourth play of the game. Green Bay slowed the Eagles running game and put adequate pressure on Donovan McNabb, but the Bucs should have more success against Green Bay's leaky pass defense.

When it mattered most, the Packers defense didn't deliver. After shutting down the Eagles offense for three-quarters, one slip in the secondary and the Eagles were on their doorsteps.

The first touchdown could be forgiven, but the second touchdown was all Sherman's mistake. With two and a half minutes to play, the Eagles had the ball on their own thirty-five yard line. Instead of playing to win and blitzing Philly's offensive line, the Packers made the decision to drop seven and play two-deep zone. McNabb has all day to throw the football. After several easy completions over the middle, the Eagles were inside the Packers 20-yard line with plenty of time to score..and score they did with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. The final two drives statistically dilute the Packers' defensive performance, but they can't be blamed for bad luck and bad calls.

When the Packers have the ball - Green Bay literally fumbled away its game against the Eagles. Brett Favre fumbled three times, all while trying to throw, after not fumbling in his first eight games, and Ahman Green coughed the ball up twice and tied Tiki Barber for most fumbles lost in the league with five. Granted, the conditions were crappy and Favre was nursing a broken thumb, but the Eagles didn't make the same mistakes (zero fumbles) despite playing in the same conditions.

Despite the ball-handling problems, Ahman Green lit up the Eagles for a team-record 192 yards. The Packers relied on frequent two-fullback sets, placing William Henderson and Nick Luchey in the backfield with Green. Green Bay fell to 0-5 in games in which Green has fumbled.

The Bucs defense needs to get healthy real soon or else hope that Green has one of his fumble-prone outings, because he should find the running good otherwise. Tampa Bay hasn't been particularly effective against the run this season, and LBs Derrick Brooks (wrist), Ryan Nece (knee) and Dwayne Rudd (knee) are all questionable for this weekend. The Packers will try to establish the run in order to keep the pressure on Favre and his thumb to a minimum. If Tampa puts eight in the box to shut Green down, the Packers will throw quickly to their WRs and make the Buc's corners come up and tackle in the open field, something they haven't done all season. If the Buc's play two-deep coverage, Green should have another big day.

New England vs. Dallas

New England Offense
Sacked/G=1.89
Rush TDs/G=.56
Rush Avg.=3.6

Dallas Defense
Sacks/G=2.11
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

New England Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.89
Rush Avg. Against=3.7

Dallas Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=.78
Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Patriots have the ball - The Patriots averaged 74 yards on the ground in their past three games and have had two weeks to figure out the Cowboys' stiff run defense. New England will most likely rely on Antowain Smith to attack Dallas' susceptible middle while trying, most likely with little success, to spring RB Kevin Faulk loose on the outside. Strength has been more successful than finesse against Dallas this season.

Dallas has held six straight opponents to under 135 net yards passing, but New England and Belichick's complicated schemes could be a problem. Brady should perform better at home and if anyone can prepare him for a Parcells defense, it's Belichick. Regardless, Dallas will need to stymie the Patriots to compensate for what should be a low-yardage output from its offense.

When the Cowboys have the ball - RB Troy Hambrick apparently continued his slide further into Bill Parcell's doghouse, although Parcells' indicated otherwise. Hambrick didn't touch the ball on the Cowboys' final six drives, which included 14 running plays, while recent addition Adrian Murrell rushed 16 times for 76 yards. Murrell's speed was a nice change of pace against the Bills from Hambrick's slower, more bruising style.

QB Quincy Carter struggled with poor passes and misreads, despite getting good protection from the offensive line. Carter finished the game 15 of 32 for 116 yards - his lowest yardage total of the season.

OF Ryan Young (knee) missed his second straight game, but should be ready for New England.

New England's secondary continues to impress and could very well give Carter fits. The Pats have allowed opposing QBs to complete only 53 percent of their passes with a mere four touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a lowly passer rating of 59.5.

It won't get any easier for Dallas' running game, either. Only one back has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Patriots, whose run gap discipline is much improved from a year ago.

New Orleans vs. Atlanta

New Orleans Offense
Sacked/G=1.78
Rush TDs/G=.56
Rush Avg.=4.3

Atlanta Defense
Sacks/G=2.22
Rush TDs Against/G=1.56
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

New Orleans Defense
Sacks/G=2.22
Rush TDs Against/G=.78
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Atlanta Offense
Sacked/G=2.56
Rush TDs/G=1.11
Rush Avg.=4.7

When the Saints have the ball - New Orleans remains slightly banged up even after its bye week, but most everyone in question should be back by Sunday. LG Kendyl Jacox and RG LeCharles Bently both hurt their knees in the fourth quarter of the Saints' win over Tampa Bay and both remain day-to-day. LT Wayne Gandy is nursing hamstring and groin injuries yet should go against the Falcons. RT Victor Riley injured his ankle against Tampa Bay and is expected to play, as well.

RB Deuce McAllister should find success against the Falcons' 30th-ranked rush defense. McAllister has rushed for at least 100 yards in six straight games.

New Orleans had success throwing the ball against the Falcons the last time these teams met, but then so has every other team west of New York. WRs Joe Horn (knee) and Donte Stallworth (strained quadriceps) should be ready. Stallworth has missed the team's past two games

Atlanta's re-vamped secondary came up big against the Giants, largely due to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' successful mixing of zone and man-to-man coverages and his decision to increase the pressure on Kerry Collins. Amazingly, after dwelling comfortably at the bottom of the league in pass defense for most of the year, the Falcons put the clamps on the Giant's No. 2-ranked passing offense and sacked Collins three times.

Both DL Travis Hall, who missed the Giants game with a sprained neck, and S Kevin McCadam (hamstring), will likely be out on Sunday.

When the Falcons have the ball - The offensive line was outstanding against the Giants and paved the way for Warrick Dunn's huge day (25 carries, 178 yards). He and less-used T.J. Duckett helped the team run for 216 yards on 37 carries.

The success of the running game may have benefited QB Kurt Kittner more than anyone else. Kittner (9 or 23 for 65 yards) didn't shine, but he continued to not make mistakes and suffered only one sack.

You know things aren't going well for your team when your starting QB completes 29 of 70 passes for 258 yards over a three-game stretch and you're happy with the results. Kittner has managed to avoid big mistakes and has been intercepted on only 2.9 percent of his passes.

LT Kevin Shaffer played well in his first career start in place of starter Bob Whitfield (fractured right fibula), allowing Giants DE Kenny Holmes only one solo tackle and zero sacks. The bar will be raised for Shaffer against the Saints, who flip their defensive ends and will give him a taste of both Charles Grant and Willie Whitehead. Together, they have 11.5 sacks.

New Orleans will welcome the return of its best pass rusher in Darren Howard, who has missed eight straight games with a dislocated right wrist. Howard's return should bolster a unit that has improved steadily as the season has progressed. After allowing 13 touchdowns and 29.8 points per game in their first four contests, New Orleans has allowed only eight TDs and 17.2 points per game in its past five games. The Saints also have 10 takeaways in their last five games compared to only three in their first four matchups.

New Orleans could be without LCB Dale Carter, who injured his left quadriceps muscle and knee on Nov. 2 against the Bucs. He is listed as day-to-day. SLB Darrin Smith (hamstring and groin) likely will miss the game.

Buffalo vs. Houston

Buffalo Offense
Sacked/G=2.89
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=3.4

Houston Defense
Sacks/G=.89
Rush TDs Against/G=1.11
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Buffalo Defense
Sacks/G=1.56
Rush TDs Against/G=.89
Rush Avg. Against=3.8

Houston Offense
Sacked/G=1.78
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.3

When the Bills have the ball - The Cowboys hit the Bills where it hurt the most - right smack dab in the Drew Bledsoe. The Bills offensive, minus LT Jonas Jennings (hip), spent most of the day trying to block six to eight defenders and didn't get any help from Bledsoe or Buffalo receivers who couldn't get open in one-on-one coverage presented by the blitzing 'Boys.

Bledsoe seems to get worse on a weekly basis and finished Sunday's game 17 of 34 for 104 yards. He also fumbled two of the three times he was sacked - the first setting Dallas up with the only touchdown it would need - and completed two of eight passes for one yard in the fourth quarter.

RB Travis Henry ran well with 80 yards on 21 carries, but disappeared with only one yard on four carries in the final quarter when the Cowboys blitzed constantly.

During a three-game stretch in which he's gained 371 yards, Henry has run most effectively on delays and draws. Meanwhile, Houston has been getting run on with ease due to a thin defensive line, and it should be more of the same against the Bills. Injuries to NT Seth Payne (knee) and Gary Walker (toe) have been costly, and a running back has hit 100 yards in each of the past three games against the Texans.

When the Texans have the ball - David Carr wasn't sharp in his return, and his totals (11 of 25, 146 yards) would have been even more paltry if not for his 73-yard scoring strike to Corey Bradford. Carr faced significant pressure for most of the day, and though he was sacked only twice he was knocked down on a half-dozen or so plays. He also threw a costly interception in the fourth quarter and missed open receivers downfield on a couple of occasions.

Rookie RB Domanick Davis had another promising outing, though Houston didn't seem to assert itself with the run as it had been doing in recent games. After a slow start, Davis ran for 82 of his 104 yards in the second half, including a team-record 54-yard jaunt in the third quarter. Despite his success, Davis was given only 15 carries as the Bengals effectively controlled the clock (41:15 to 18:45) for much of the game.

Buffalo has allowed only one touchdown pass at home this year and has consistently shut down opposing QBs in its own den. Not good for Carr, who's having enough trouble as it is. The Texans will need a big game from Davis, including a handful of long gainers, in order to give Carr an ounce of comfort in the pocket.

The Bills seem to suffer in the give/take department even when their defense plays well. Buffalo couldn't muster a turnover against the Cowboys and are currently last in the league in takeaways with 10 and in plus/minus at -11.

Cincinnati vs. Kansas City

Cincinnati Offense
Sacked/G=2.11
Rush TDs/G=.89
Rush Avg.=3.4

Kansas City Defense
Sacks/G=2.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=4.7

Cincinnati Defense
Sacks/G=1.89
Rush TDs Against/G=.78
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Kansas City Offense
Sacked/G=1.44
Rush TDs/G=1.78
Rush Avg.=4.3

When the Bengals have the ball - Some may say that Cincinnati could beat Kansas City this weekend because the Chiefs are looking ahead to stiffer competition down the road. Truth is, the Bengals may just be good enough to do it regardless - on offense, at least.

Cincinnati dominated the clock (41:15 to 18:45) against the Texans behind a running attack featuring 43 rushing attempts by Rudi Johnson and 57 attempts total. Needless to say, the offensive line had a field day and helped John Kitna to an efficient-if-not-spectacular performance. It was the third game in which the Bengals gained 400 or more yards, and the first in which they scored first.

The only team missing Corey Dillon this Sunday may be the Chiefs. Kansas City can be shaky against the run, although last week's game against Cleveland wasn't much of a test. Sunday's performance wasn't the usual for the Bengals' inconsistent offensive line, but it wasn't the units first good game, either. Cincinnati may not need another 240 yards on the ground, but it can't afford to get into a shootout with the NFL's highest-scoring team.

When the Chiefs have the ball - When don't the Chiefs have the ball? Things couldn't have gone much better for the Chiefs on Sunday. 438 total yards, scores on six straight possessions and a team record 12 of 16 third down conversions - domination across the board.

QB Trent Green hit 69 percent of his 42 passes against Cleveland's No. 2-ranked pass defense as Kansas City made only enough use of the run to keep the Browns' defense honest.

OT John Tait (ankle) may be out this week; he is currently listed as doubtful for the Cincinnati game. T Marcus Spears would move to right tackle if Tait can't play.

The Bengals can pretty much count on Kansas City holding the ball for more time than Houston (18:45) did against them - and they may be lucky if it's not twice as long. Cincinnati has been giving up yards in bunches both on the ground and in the air, and to teams far less imposing than the Chiefs.

Bengal CB Jeff Burris (concussions) is questionable for this game.

Chicago vs. St. Louis

Chicago Offense
Sacked/G=3.00
Rush TDs/G=.78
Rush Avg.=4.1

St. Louis Defense
Sacks/G=2.44
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Chicago Defense
Sacks/G=.78
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

St. Louis Offense
Sacked/G=2.78
Rush TDs/G=1.22
Rush Avg.=3.2

When the Bears have the ball - Not throwing the ball well against the Lions on Sunday was bad enough. Not running well against the Lions was even worse.

Chicago couldn't take advantage of Detroit's injury-riddled secondary. The Lions played a deep cover two zone to protect cornerbacks Otis Smith, 38 and Doug Evans, 33. Neither could the Bears rely on RB Anthony Thomas, who had averaged 110 yards in his previous four games but was held to 61 yards on 21 carries vs. Detroit.

Only three of Chicago's 12 possessions lasted more than four plays.

St. Louis was absolutely rabid on defense against Baltimore and proved it can win even when their offense isn't clicking on all (or any) cylinders. The Rams forced seven turnovers, had seven sacks and held the Ravens to 1.8 yards per play on 33 plays in the second half. Their 29 takeaways are tied with Kansas City for the league lead.

S Adam Archuleta returned with a bang, forcing a fumble on a blitz and picking the ball up and running 45 yards for a touchdown.

The Rams may be without the services of DE Leonard Little (torn pectoral muscle) for another game.

When the Rams have the ball - Everyone knew that Baltimore had a great defense, but this is ridiculous. St. Louis, which entered the game with the league's No. 1 offense, could muster only 121 yards, including 74 through the air as the Ravens turned the greatest show on earth into the greatest show ground to a halt.

QB Marc Bulger had trouble reading blitzes and never could get into rhythm. During one stretch, St. Louis went seven series without even getting a first down. Baltimore did give Bulger and the Rams line plenty of trouble (4 sacks).

If it wasn't for their opponent's mistakes, the Rams may not have stayed in the game. St. Louis' six scoring drives were for 36, 1, 32, 8, 4 and 26 yards.

The Rams will come into this game seeking to establish Marshall Faulk in order to free up Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce against the Bears' oft-stingy secondary. Chicago won't be holding St. Louis to 17 yards on 20 carries as they did the Lions, but the Bears have been improving against the run and it's reasonable to think that they can slow down Faulk, who wasn't especially sharp against the Ravens.

Indianapolis vs. New York Jets

Indianapolis Offense
Sacked/G=.89
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=3.4

New York Defense
Sacks/G=3.00
Rush TDs Against/G=1.11
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Indianapolis Defense
Sacks/G=2.11
Rush TDs Against/G=.89
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

New York Offense
Sacked/G=1.22
Rush TDs/G=.44
Rush Avg.=3.9

When the Colts have the ball - Indy's struggles on offense - most notably on the ground - continued against the Jags. The Colts running game produced only 47 yards on 21 attempts and again was ineffective in short-yardage and goal-line situations. RB Edgerrin James wasn't even on the field for Indianapolis' final two possessions and had only four rushes for 10 carries in the second half.

The Colts moved the football through the air poorly in the second half with WR Marvin Harrison out with a pulled hamstring. QB Peyton Manning finished the game with 347 passing yards (28 or 45), but the team struggled to move the ball when it needed to most late in the game.

In what would be a huge boost to the Colts' flagging offense, OT Tarik Glenn (knee) and OT Adam Meadows (knee) may return on Sunday.

The Jets' defense disappeared for much of the game against the Raiders, most notably against the run. Oakland ran 21 straight times against New York in the first quarter, which speaks volumes about the Jets' rush defense. New York was able to contain the run in the second half by bringing an eighth man into the box and making the Raiders rely on the arm of Rick Mirer.

New York has been getting burned against the run all season long, allowing a league-worst 155.1 yards per game. What made matters worse was the Jets' inability to put much pressure on Mirer as they went without a sack for the first time this season.

New York is still without DE John Abraham (groin), and will continue to be replaced by Bryan Thomas. CB Ray Mickens (strained neck) is listed as questionable, and will be replaced by Ray Green, if necessary.

When the Jets have the ball - New York overcame Oakland's slanting and stunting to run for 143 of their 155 yards after halftime, thanks to an adjustment made to their blocking scheme. The Jets are learning what they can and can't do with Curtis Martin at this stage of his career, and the results with LaMont Jordan getting more action have been good indeed. Jordan tallied 69 yards with a touchdown on seven carries, all in the second half.

QB Chad Pennington led New York to 17 points in the game's final 20 minutes. Oakland blitzed early and often, but the OL did a good job picking it up and Pennington maintained his composure.

Indy has been giving up yardage on the ground like it's going out of style, and the Jets will most likely feed the Colts a steady dose of both Martin and Jordan. Pennington seems comfortable no matter where he's throwing, and the result has been more room for his RBs to roam.

The Colts weren't much better defending the pass on Sunday, putting almost no pressure on rookie Byron Leftwich (zero sacks or interceptions) and allowing a number of first downs via the pass in the second half.

Seattle vs. Detroit

Seattle Offense
Sacked/G=2.89
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.5

Detroit Defense
Sacks/G=1.89
Rush TDs Against/G=.78
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Seattle Defense
Sacks/G=1.78
Rush TDs Against/G=.89
Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Detroit Offense
Sacked/G=.67
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.5

When the Seahawks have the ball - Seattle moved the ball well again and QB Matt Hasselbeck threw well all day, but dropped passes continue to plague the Seahawks. WR Darrell Jackson may be the biggest culprit on a unit that's dropped umpteen passes the past few weeks, including five more on Sunday. Jackson's drop against Washington resulted in an interception.

RB Shaun Alexander carried 22 times for 94 yards, including a one-yard run. However, he ran into Hasselbeck on a third-and-one play late in the game, netting a two-yard loss.

Despite a solid showing against the Bears, the Lions secondary is still a mess and Detroit is still a very poor team on the road (20 straight road losses). CB Dre' Bly's probable return from a hamstring injury will help, but OLB Boss Bailey, arguably Detroit's best defender of late, may be limited by a shoulder injury.

When the Lions have the ball - If there's one team in the league that struggles to catch the ball as much as the Seahawks, it's the Lions. Detroit receivers dropped three more passes on Sunday, but they weren't the only ones to blame for the offense's woes. Lions RBs churned out 17 yards on 20 carries for a whopping .85 yards per carry average and zero first downs.

There are signs that QB Joey Harrington may be getting more comfortable throwing the ball downfield. Against Chicago, he had six passes of 16 yards or more. Hardly Culpepperian numbers, but nonetheless progress for the Lions. Overall, Harrington played a fine game, making no mistakes and surviving the absence of an effective running game. His 80.8 QB rating was his highest since the season opener.

The Lions will take a 20-game road losing streak to Seattle, three short of the NFL record.

The Seahawks may get back to blitzing after getting burned for not blitzing enough against the Redskins next week. But then, Seattle was burned the previous week against Cincinnati on a handful of blitzes. Even so, the Lions are so thin at wide receiver that it would take a surprising performance for them to manage much through the air.

Seattle will be without DT Norman Hand for the remainder of the season following Hand's decision to undergo surgery on his torn right biceps tendon. Regardless, Detroit's 32nd-ranked rushing offense (79.9 yards per game) has barely tested anyone all year.

Oakland vs. Minnesota

Oakland Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=.78
Rush Avg.=4.1

Minnesota Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.11
Rush Avg. Against=5.3

Oakland Defense
Sacks/G=1.22
Rush TDs Against/G=1.22
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Minnesota Offense
Sacked/G=2.44
Rush TDs/G=.89
Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Raiders have the ball - Oakland poured on the run against the Jets in the first half, and ran the ball 21 times in a row on their first possession. However, the run couldn't help them score a TD in the second half as the Raiders let their 21-10 advantage slip away. In the end, the Raiders' 3.3-yard-average on 52 carries was nothing to write home about against a Jets run defense ranked last in the league.

Once Oakland started to throw the ball, QB Rick Mirer received good protection, completed 72 percent of his passes (17-25), avoided turnovers and sacks and even completed 9 of 11 throws on third down.

Minnesota hasn't been able to stop anyone the past few weeks, and allowed the Chargers more points in a game (42) than they'd scored in a decade. The Vikings allowed touchdowns on all four of San Diego's first-half possessions and didn't force a punt until the third quarter. Minnesota has allowed averages of 453 yards and 33.7 points per game in its last three games, all losses.

Team's have been picking on Minnesota's perimeter defense, and Oakland will be no different. The Raiders have the backs to mix up their attack and will most likely take an approach to this game similar to last week - run, run, run, with a few short throws outside in the mix. Barring any surprises, Mirer won't throw downfield unless it's a must.

When the Vikings have the ball - The Vikings are losing despite continued dominance on offense. QB Daunte Culpepper did face a good amount of pressure, including three sacks, but that was largely because Minnesota had almost twice as many passes (44) as rushes (23) as the Vikings played catch-up from the get-go. Surprisingly, Minnesota led 33:08 to 26:52 in time of possession.

RB Michael Bennett ran well with limited carries in his third game back from injury, but lost a fumble inside the Chargers' 5-yard line early in the second half with the Vikings behind 28-14. Culpepper gained 42 yards on six carries for his best rushing performance since he fractured bones in his back in week 2. He also threw for a career-high 370 yards, and connected with WR Randy Moss and RB Moe Williams for 120 and 126 yards, respectively.

Oakland will continue to be without the services of DTs Dana Stubblefield (ankle) and John Parrella (groin). Against the Jets, the Raiders' line put little pressure on QB Chad Pennington and collapsed against the run in the second half. Oakland allowed a combined 10 receptions for 200 yards to New York WRs Santana Moss and Curtis Conway.

It's clear that the Raiders will have to score points in bunches in order to keep pace in what's sure to be a sprint against Culpepper, Moss, Williams and Co., but against the Vikings' defense of late, lots of offense has been the status quo.

San Francisco vs. Pittsburgh

San Francisco Offense
Sacked/G=1.89
Rush TDs/G=.89
Rush Avg.=4.4

Pittsburgh Defense
Sacks/G=2.56
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=3.4

San Francisco Defense
Sacks/G=3.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.56
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Pittsburgh Offense
Sacked/G=2.78
Rush TDs/G=.56
Rush Avg.=3.3

When the 49ers have the ball - The 49ers are fourth in the league in rushing and eighth overall, but those stats don't reflect the inconsistency that has plagued the team on its way to a 4-5 record. The offensive line has been great at times, but has also struggled against the likes of Arizona and Cleveland.

San Francisco continues to get good production from RBs Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow, although both have fumbled at crucial times in close games, both losses.

QB Tim Rattay should get another start this week in relief of the injured Jeff Garcia (ankle). This may actually be a good thing as Rattay played well in the 49ers' 30-19 win over the Rams on Nov. 2. Even when healthy - assuming he ever has been fully healthy - Garcia has played below expectations this season.

Pittsburgh's pass defense has struggled, but it did do a good job of pressuring QB Jeff Blake in the team's win on Sunday. The Steelers sacked Blake five times, forced him into some poor throws on third down and pressured him throughout the game.

San Francisco has had two weeks to prepare for Pittsburgh's 3-4 alignment. The 49ers will have to boost their pass protection up a notch, and Hearst and Barlow will have to run well enough against Pittsburgh's solid defense to open things up for Rattay and his receivers.

When the Steelers have the ball - Pittsburgh gained 193 yards of offense in the first half against the Cardinals, yet settled for seven points. RB Jerome Bettis ran well before hurting his shoulder, but he also fumbled for the third time in 48 carries after fumbling only once in his previous 980 touches.

Pittsburgh's re-tooled offensive line helped the Steelers to only 87 yards and a 3.2-yard-average per carry, but did keep pressure off of QB Tommy Maddox (one sack). Maddox threw three touchdowns against zero interceptions and had his best passer rating (110.9) since week one.

OT Marvel Smith may return after missing five of the past six games with a pinched nerve in his neck.

San Francisco brings a strong front seven to the run game and is especially dominating against the run at home. It would be far-fetched to think Pittsburgh will do much at all on the ground, which will leave it to Maddox to beat a secondary that is vulnerable at times. The challenge will be giving Maddox enough time to throw against a unit ranked third in the league with 27 sacks.

San Francisco DE Andre Carter did not practice on Monday due to two bulging disks in his lower back, but he is expected back against the Steelers.